Chapter 229: Warming To HerAlexandra Erin on July 22, 2014 in Volume 2 Book 7: Courtly Manners, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort
In Which Sparks Fly
It was cold inside Oberrad House… it was cold outside as the first semester galloped to a close, and there was a limit to how different the inside temperature could be compared to the outside temperature when there was massive holes in the walls.
The dwarves were experienced stone shapers, and did not limit themselves to mundane building practices like tearing a wall out and building a new one. In order to keep with the human-drafted plans, of course, they couldn’t simply sculpt the existing window holes into the arches that the plan called for, but their methods were still quicker and cleaner.
Or maybe I should say “openings”… holes kind of suggested something more ragged and haphazard.
“I’m sorry about the cold,” Glory said, after I reacted a little too strongly to her sister’s attempt to take my jacket as we entered. “We’d probably be done by now, if the crew could work through the night.”
“In fairness, I think it’s pretty reasonable for them to take time off to sleep,” I said. It was sort of reassuring how easily Glory apologized, but I still winced inwardly a little whenever she said something that was a bit too… middling.
“Oh, I don’t mean the same ones who work during the day,” she said. “They have enough shifts of workers to go around the clock, which was actually part of their original proposal… but apparently, the school has regulations for contractors working on the school grounds, and they apply no matter who’s footing the bill. It seems like there are safety concerns about working outside after dark. I tried to tell them that the dwarves don’t care about darkness or monsters… but rules are rules, I guess.”
“That makes sense,” I said.
“I have been assured… repeatedly… that the windows will be done up properly before the first snow,” Glory said.
“That’s good news,” I said.
“Yes,” she said. “I’m afraid, however, that it’s accompanied by the traditional bad news.”
“It’s going to be a lot colder up in my room.”
“Oh, well,” I said. “It can’t be colder than it was outside.”
“I’m… not entirely sure about that,” she said. “I don’t think the fourth floor interior heats up as much during the day as the outside does.”
“Well, I’ll manage,” I said.
I started to regret my bold words as soon as we reached the stairwell, which was like walking into a refrigerator. With each floor we climbed, the air grew colder… or maybe that was just the effect of being in it for longer.
It didn’t help anything that the only floor with an intact door separating the stairwell from the hallway was the first one. The interior renovations had not progressed much beyond the “clear out the junk” phase, presumably because of the focus on getting the façade done before winter arrived.
“Sorry,” Glory said again, before we even reached the fourth floor.
“I’ll be okay,” I said. “Especially if you won’t mind me setting up a temporary heating spell.”
“Are you kidding? I’ll mind even less if you could make it permanent!” she said. “Well… maybe not permanent, as it shouldn’t be necessary for long.”
“True permanency would be tricky,” I said, which I preferred to saying it was beyond my abilities because it was something I would be able to do, eventually, and could maybe work out in a pinch if I had enough time and resources to throw at it. “But I think I can manage a self-sustaining spell that will be stable without being hard to remove later.”
“Oh, goody!” she said. “You know, if I’d stayed in Treehome, I could have reaped a lot of social points for having court enchanters.”
“Isn’t that fairly common?” I asked. Despite their fondness for illusions and glamours, elves had a reputation for being good with the higher magics.
“Not really,” she said. “Most elves who are interested in enchantment take an apprenticeship path rather than enrolling in a university… the idea of mastering enchantment in four years is kind of, I don’t know… heretical… among elves.”
“There are a lot of human enchanters around who don’t really ‘get’ the applied enchantment approach,” I said. “But they’re pretty much still turning out dancing swords and rings of spell storing, while we’ve got TVs and fridges. Anyway, how many elves finish the program in four years?”
“Not many… but we get the same amount of learning in that time,” she said.
“Anyway, it’s not like we’re expected to really master anything in that time,” I said. “Just… bachelor it, I guess? It’s supposed to be enough for us to go out there and get a decent job or start up a shop, which I guess can serve as an apprenticeship for the other stuff. Anyway, if you’d stayed in Treehome, you wouldn’t really have me.”
“I guess not,” she said. “Or Wisdom, really, since she only came over because she figured out something was going on.”
We reached Glory’s room, and I had a pleasant surprise: the front windows on this floor were actually in better shape than they’d been when she’d moved in. Some of the panes had been missing or broken, with the worst covered with plywood. They’d all been redone.
“The perks of royalty,” Glory said, noticing my gaze. “I asked them to start with my room’s exterior, since it’s all windows and I’d pretty much have to relocate when they got to it, which meant there would be no point in getting my bedroom set up before then. It’s a pity it doesn’t do more to keep out the cold, though.”
“It’s still something,” I said. “And it will make the spell I put in a little more efficient… if there’s not a cold breeze pouring directly into the room, I won’t have to pump quite as much energy into it to begin with, which means it will take less work to make is self-sustaining.”
“Well, have it,” Glory said, making a sweeping gesture in front of her. “Unless you’d rather get down to the physical stuff first… in case that helps you work out a sweat.”
I don’t think that she meant it as a double entendre, but I still blushed madly at it, which led to me stammering my way through my reply.
“I… I don’t actually sweat that much,” I said. “Beyond I guess maybe a base level of background perspiration… heat doesn’t bother me, and I don’t know what kind of exertion it would take for me to work up a serious sweat.”
“How charming,” Glory said. “Maybe we’ll find out how to make you sweat.”
I didn’t have anything to say to that at the moment, so I impressed myself by saying nothing about it.
“Okay… if you can stand back for a bit,” I said. “Or, actually, I should probably just be doing this in the center of the room.”
“Ooh, are you going to be calling fire?” she asked, following after me as I headed for the open space in the middle of the chamber.
“No,” Is aid. “Not in the sense that you’re probably thinking… I’m pretty sure the normal school rules about fire magic in dorms applies here, and Two would never forgive me for breaking that. Anyway, while fire would warm the place up, that’s kind of a roundabout way to get what we want, which is the warmth itself. But this involves dealing with fire, and it’ll just be easier if I don’t have to worry about catching you in a backlash.”
“You wouldn’t dare,” she said, stepping even closer.
“You’re right, I wouldn’t,” I said. “Which is why I’m not going to try until you give me some space.”
“You know nothing will probably even happen.”
“Nothing will definitely happen,” I said.
“Oh, fine,” she said, twirling around and gliding away, her long gown swishing in her wake. “Excuse me for trying to add a small element of excitement to the proceedings.”
“You know I don’t come here for drama.”
Elementalism was the first non-divinatory magic, the first real magic, that I’d ever mastered, or bachelored. Or… freshmanned? Learned how to use at a consistent if not exceptional level, I guess is how I’d put it.
The very basic act of making a room warmer was very simple indeed. All it required was for me to find the heat that was already there, lurking inside the element of fire that infused all matter, even stuff that was mostly earth or air, and then calling it forth.
Using the air would be safer, since it was a lot harder to catch air on fire, and I could make the “hotspot” that resulted be floating in five or six feet off the ground and well away from anything combustible. It was also more difficult, though, because the air was harder to “grab hold of” to begin with, and for the same reason that it would be safer, the fire inside it was more elusive than it would have been in something like the wooden floorboards.
I started by just bringing the temperature of the room up to something that I found comfortable, which was probably a bit overkill and would have been hard to sustain. But the kind of spell I had in mind would have taken far too long to bring the temperature up by itself.
The energy I pumped into making the room hotter would make it easier to work with the fire in the air. As impossible as it might be to pull oneself up by one’s own bootstraps in daily life, a lot of enchantment consisted of “bootstrapping”, and working with elements could be, too.
Once I had the room up to a level I could comfortably work with, I started to form the spell. It wasn’t hard to work out what I needed to do… I’d done similar things on a more personal scale the previous winter, and it was only the fact that it hadn’t been cold enough for long enough for me to acquire the habit that I’d as exposed to the elements as I was on the way over.
I drew my hand and started to create a pool of energy in the tip of it. Actually binding a spell to the air in the room was possible, but beyond my level of mastery in either elemental manipulation or enchantment. Enchanting the room itself as an entity was closer to my level.
That was a lot to work with, even when compared to something like taking hold of a whole building… but since I knew my wand would work as an interface for that, I also knew it could handle the room. I just wanted to have the basic spell bound before I started wrestling with it.
The structure of the spell was something like this: a pool of energy, my energy, linked to itself in a way that would be stable and slightly self-sustaining, in that it would draw on ambient energy like a self-charging powerstone. A basic heat-bringing-forth spell was linked to this pool with two conditional chains, one that would stop it from operating if there wasn’t enough energy in the pool to keep the whole thing stable, and the other that would stop it if the air grew too hot.
The actual area of effect for the spell was the empty air in the center because I was more comfortable with evoking the heat elementally than raising the temperature of the room by altering its properties, but to help distribute the results I added a gentle circular breeze. When I had what I thought was the proper structure on the end of my wand, I put it into action… and once I could observe that it was working, I bound the spell into the room.
I really had learned a lot from Acantha, and not all of it had been business advice of dubious ethicality or life advice of dubious applicability.
I reached out to touch the spell I’d woven into the room, just to make sure that it hadn’t lost anything in the transfer and that it was operating without any unexpected kinks.
It wouldn’t last forever or even close to it. I’d probably need to manually pump more energy into the reservoir each time I visited during the cold months, but I didn’t think it was in real danger of running dry.
I would never have to spend quite as much energy as I had to get it going, which was on top of the power I’d expended bringing the room up to a reasonable temperature to begin with… and using my wand had exacerbated the drain a bit, as it always seemed to. But it was done.
“There,” I said.
“Where?” Glory asked.
“You can’t feel it?”
“Of course I can,” she said. “I just expected there to be more to see.”
“I could add a visual effect, but it would do nothing but increase the rate of drain and would probably be distracting,” I said.
“I meant in the actual process,” she said. “I couldn’t even tell that there was a process… you closed your eyes, waved your wand around, and then touched it to the floor. No… poof, no sparks, no ethereal chords.”
“No glamour, you mean,” I said.
“I always had you pegged for more of a showoff when it comes to these things.”
“I was showing off a little,” I said. “If you were an enchanter, I think you’d really appreciate my linkages. Anyway, that stuff wouldn’t have actually done anything.”
“It would’ve been cool.”
“I thought humans were cool,” I said. “This is human magic. We just… get things done.”
“I think the least you could have done after banishing me to the outer reaches would have been to give me a shower of sparks so I could have shielded my face and gone ‘ooh’,” Glory said.
“Look, if you want sparks, I can give you sparks.”
“No, it’s fine,” she said. “I’d know you were just doing it to please me, and then I wouldn’t… actually, no. I would enjoy that. I’d enjoy it more, if anything.” She clapped her hands. “Sparks! Give me sparks!”
“Your wish is my command,” I said. I took my wand back off its belt loop, gave it a dramatic flourish, and then considered. Since I didn’t do this sort of thing all the time, I didn’t have a spell ready for it.
Still, one of the first spells I’d used in Acantha’s class had been a sort of spark-shooting spell. It had been a single spark, and a little less harmless than anything I’d want to shoot off a shower of indoors, but it gave me a place to start. I already had a basic idea of how to create a cascade effect of one spark setting off another, so all I had to do was… multiply that a bit, while easing back on the general forcefulness of it.
I came up with a spell where each spark would create five more, through five iterations… that should be around three thousand of them, which I thought would probably qualify as a “shower” by anyone’s estimation… but it might be less impressive if the sheer volume really only came up at the end, so I decided to start with five sparks at the beginning, too.
There were probably shorter and more direct ways to go about it, but the key thing was that I was reasonably sure that this one would work, and that it was unlikely to harm the room or Glory. So after laying it out in my head, I set it up on the end of my wand like I had the previous spell, and then I pointed it and pushed through the energy I needed to bring it about.
The world went very bright, and then very dark.